The future of Roe v. Wade

The fate of reproductive healthcare remains uncertain without RBG on the bench

Kelsey Paul, Contributing Writer

If anything demonstrates just how profound of an influence late United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had on women’s rights, let it be the comments that flooded social media mourning the feminist trailblazer’s death.

Comments like, “It was nice having rights,” “We’re doomed” and “I am so sad and so scared right now” are just a few of the many panicked and forlorn remarks that inundated comment sections of Twitter, Instagram and many more social media platforms.

Ginsburg is credited for the immeasurable advances she made for women’s rights, though she was not on the bench when the controversial United States Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade was brought forth. Nonetheless, many considered RBG to be the pillar keeping Roe standing, and now fear that it will fall without her support.

Photo from WikiCommons

Roe v. Wade, a milestone 1973 Supreme Court ruling, ensures a pregnant individual’s constitutional right to choose to have an abortion. Now, it is in danger of being overturned, and the potential consequences are undeniably severe.

“Roe v. Wade has been challenged many times. Indeed, our abortion protections now are weaker than they once were,” said Kim O’Neill, associate professor of English at Quinnipiac University. “I am worried about reproductive rights, but I am more worried about the lived consequences for women and trans/non-binary people. Young women and poorer women will suffer disproportionately if abortion access is denied or further restricted.”

If the ruling is overturned, legislation will fall into the hands of each individual state. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights’ “What if Roe Fell?” project, over half of the United States would be likely to either prohibit abortion altogether or remove all legal protection. This poses a serious threat to women seeking an abortion, as many clinics in the South have already been closing.

Design by Michael Clement

“Political agendas including state and federal legislation that create barriers to abortion access or interfere with the patient-provider relationship (Target Regulation of Abortion Provider, or TRAP laws) pose a threat to these fundamental reproductive rights,” said Dr. Rebecca Zucconi, assistant professor of medical sciences at Quinnipiac. “Many healthcare professionals, including myself, do fear that limiting safe and legal access to abortion services will force more women to resort to unsafe means to end an unwanted pregnancy, through either self-inflicted trauma, self-medication with toxic drugs, or reliance on dangerously unqualified and unregulated abortion providers.”

It’s not just access to safe abortions that would be restricted if Roe was challenged or overturned. Limited access to contraceptives would present new and alarming consequences.

“Even moving away from reproductive rights and looking at something as simple as access to birth control, I’m scared,” said freshman political science major Alyssa Arends. “In Trump v. Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that due to religious reasons, healthcare providers are not required to cover birth control for their clients. That decision was made before the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

Even moving away from reproductive rights and looking at something as simple as access to birth control, I’m scared

— Alyssa Arends

Birth control is widely used among college-aged individuals for a number of reasons that extend well past its manifest purpose. College students are directly affected by this decision, according to Zucconi.

“As young adults, college students have unique health care needs,” Zucconi said. “Aside from providing access to safe and effective contraceptive methods, reproductive health care for college students also addresses sexually transmitted disease prevention and treatment, which can have profound implications on future fertility, as well as issues related to intimate partner violence, substance use, and mental health.”

A primary concern regarding the possibility of Roe being overturned or weakened is that many of the justices (and lawmakers in many states, if legislation is turned to them) who will make this decision are male and aren’t affected by this ruling to the extent that women are. Many fear that if Roe is overturned, other fundamental rights will be seized, too.

“If the government, an institution constituting primarily old, cisgender, heterosexual white men, can make laws governing a woman’s right to choose whether or not to bear a child, a function none of those men have, just what else can they take away?” Arends said. “And if the government chooses to value the ‘life’ of a fetus over that of a mother, what decisions will they make surrounding women’s futures or without women’s consent?”

However, on Saturday, Sept. 26, President Donald Trump nominated a woman to the Supreme Court who may very well defend the already-dominating conservative views on the bench. He chose Amy Coney Barrett, who is considered “a hero to the anti-abortion movement,” according to the New York Times, to succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She is also known to be openly critical of the Affordable Care Act, which has enhanced women’s access to healthcare.

There is no doubt that the decisions being made in the near future impact us immensely. One of the best ways to make your voice heard is by practicing civic engagement. In addition to voting, you can contact elected officials and share your opinions.

“Quinnipiac students will be affected,” O’Neill said. “Abortion access saves the lives and well-being of people in our QU community and people we care about. You must get involved. Find out who your representatives are and write to them. Use social media. Fundraise for Planned Parenthood. And vote .”